On Christmas Day, 2015, Concussion, starring Will Smith, was released. As you might have guessed from the title, the movie looked at the effects of concussions, specifically on football players who endure repeated concussions throughout their time playing the game. The movie, while not exactly presenting any new information, did get football fans, and others, to engage in discussions about brain damage. It caused some parents to question at what age a child should start participating in sports such as football, boxing, and wrestling, that are known for potentially causing brain damage - through concussions and/or repeated blows to the head. Unfortunately, the conversation faded away all too fast.
March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month. While Concussion raised concerns about brain damage in a particular sport, the Brain Injury Association of America seeks to educate the general public about brain injuries in general. Over 3.5 million children and adults sustain an acquired brain injury every year. The exact total is unknown, as not all incidents are reported. Acquired brain injuries can be caused by lack of oxygen to the brain, diseases, seizures, strokes, substance abuse, tumors, and/or exposure to toxic chemicals.
Traumatic brain injuries, like concussions, are caused by trauma from an external force, such as being in a car accident, falling off a bicycle, or suddenly having your head slammed to the ground by an opposing player after catching the football. A traumatic brain injury occurs every 13 seconds and 50,000 die every year from the injury. The Brain Injury Association of America estimates that one out of every 60 individuals live with a disability related to a traumatic brain injury.
Our brains - the way they function, operate, and their importance - are extremely complex. Scientists may study them for their entire lives and still only understand a fraction of their operations! Therefore, brain injuries present a problem for scientists because the long-term effects are relatively unknown and treatment for brain injuries are limited to what we know.
This March, raise your awareness about brain injuries. Know what they are and how to recognize symptoms. Talk to your children and increase their awareness. You never know when your knowledge could help another.
How do you handle being overwhelmed? How do you handle when life puts in situations over which you have no control? Jamie was experiencing, had been experiencing these feeling for a while now. School, life, work - it was so much to handle. Jamie was desperate for control over some part of life.
When overwhelmed, when desperate, some people will do anything for a measure of control in their lives, including injure themselves. One in five men and one in five women will engage in self-injury, often beginning as teenagers. While cutting is often thought of as the most common form of self-injury, other methods can include burning, breaking bones, scratching, bruising, drinking something harmful, or pulling out clumps of hair.
Self-injury or self-harm is a coping mechanism, often to deal with emotional stress. It allows the individual to exert, feel, and see a modicum of control in their life. Being a Christian does not exempt one for experiencing these struggles, nor does it provide an instant cure to all of life's problems. But it does provide a starting point.
casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. (1 Peter 5:7, AMP)
To begin, talk to God! (Of course this is good advice at any point in life!) Tell Him of your problems, your anxieties, whatever is overwhelming you! And do not be afraid to seek out additional help! Find a trusted friend, a church leader, or a therapist to help you. It is not weakness to seek out help, but a strength to recognize that there are things in life that cannot be handled on one’s own!
Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love]. (Galatians 6:2, AMP)
Beloved, let us [unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves [others] is born of God and knows God [through personal experience]. The one who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love. [He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature.] (1 John 4:7-8, AMP)
If you are a person sought out for help, listen! Do not be judgmental or condescending. Listen! Ask what you can do to help! Respond out of love, just as we are directed. If you feel unqualified to help, offer to accompany the person to someone else. Ask God for wisdom on how to respond.
March is Self-Injury of Self-Harm Awareness Month. Take time this month to pray for all who may be struggling. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to someone who you may help.
It has been a long week. Father was diagnosed with cancer. He does not have long to live. Mother spent most nights crying on the phone to you, looking for support. And she wants to meet this weekend! She says you have always been logical one and now needs someone logical and not emotional to help her organize everything. And work. Work! It is the busiest time of year and with the new promotion, you want to show that you have earned it, but, on top of everything else, a major supplier has ceased production. It is a lot to handle on its own, yet now… You feel that you have not yet had a moment to yourself to process all that has happened, to cry and grieve, to handle things in your way. How are you going to get through this?
Over the course of life, everyone experiences a day, week, month, or year like this. It seems that everything that can go wrong does, and you are left to try and deal with it on your own. But you are never alone! You always have a friend standing right beside you. You can cry on His shoulder, lean on Him for support. When things get really bad, He will carry you through. There is just one catch…you must ask!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV)
That friend is Jesus Christ! When we are overwhelmed with our problems, we can turn to Him for relief.
March is Spiritual Wellness Month! It is the month in which Spring officially arrives, even if the weather may not always agree. Spring, a season of renewing and planting. It is fitting, then, that in March, we also focus on our own renewal and planting. Do you have a blooming relationship with the Lord? Or does your relationship need some watering and growth?
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:7-9, ESV)
A relationship with the Lord, does not happen overnight. We must plant the seed, water it, care for it, before it begins to grow and flower. Just as we go to the gym to train our bodies to be fit, we must also spend time with the Lord to develop our relationship, which will benefit us far more than physical training ever will.
This month, Spiritual Awareness Month, focus on your relationship with the Lord! No matter what stage of your relationship, it can always grow!
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying,“I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4, ESV)
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March to be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. In the previous decades, men and women who suffered from any of the numerous developmental disabilities were often sent away to institutions because we did not know how to address their needs. With his proclamation, President Reagan sought to raise awareness and provide “encouragement and opportunities” for people with developmental disabilities.
Over 4.6 million individuals are considered developmentally disabled within the United States. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, the goal of which was to assisted individuals classified with developmental disabilities in obtaining jobs, housing, and independence. Thousands of programs resulted from this Act, which helps individuals with developmental disabilities reach their full potential, becoming productive, contributing members of society.
In 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was passed. Through this Act, changes were made in schools, allowing teachers to better provide specialized education for individuals with developmental disabilities. Colleges have begun designing programs to specifically help these individual obtain college degrees, which furthers their ability to contribute in the workforce and live independent lives.
During this month, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, consider your view of and relationship with people with developmental disabilities. Have you considered what you have done to help a friend or neighbor who may have a developmental disability? Have you considered what you have taught your children? Have you considered?
Lisa, Kelly, and Jane had been best friends since childhood. They did everything together and still get together a few times a week, although now it is for play dates for their kids instead of looking for dates. Lately though, Jane has been going through some personal struggles. While she still talks to Lisa, she has been avoiding Kelly. She loves both of her friends, but right now she needs support. Whenever she starts to talk around Kelly, Kelly takes over the conversation, "one upping" Jane's experience with one of her own, and offering advice from both sides of the spectrum. Sure, Kelly heard what Jane was saying, but she was not listening.
Raise your hand if you have ever been Jane's position. Keep it up if you have ever behaved like Kelly.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 8:13, ESV)
How many times have you heard someone say "You have two ears and one mouth, use them accordingly!"? March is Listening Awareness Month, a good time to put that saying into practice. Kelly heard what Jane was saying, but she did not listen. The first rule of listening: shut up! You do not always need to have a response prepared. Listening is not simply hearing the words others are saying, but the emotions and meaning behind the words. A response is not always necessary.
"Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:47, ESV)
The Lord God is always willing to listen to us, when we have had a bad day, a good day, experienced a tragedy, or experienced joy. Do you return the favor? Do you listen for Him?
This month make a conscious effort to listen more, and talk less! Listen for the Lord and what He is trying to tell you. Listen to your friends. Do not just hear what they are saying to respond, but really listen. Who knows? You might just learn something.